More than Scottish 100 clans and countless local and regional contenders flocked to the annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games this weekend to compete in the various athletic competitions. Read more to find out which athletes came out on top!
Marathon Winners Hail from Boone, Glasgow
A reigning champion from Boone and a first-time competitor from Scotland were crowned men and women’s champs Saturday in the Grandfather Mountain Marathon.
The gritty 26.2-mile race drew 327 runners to the starting line, but it was 34-year-old Caleb Masland of Boone and 35-year-old Jill Smylie of Glasgow who earned the top spots.
“It went better than last year,” said Masland, who also finished first in 2014. “I was shooting for 2:45, and I got 2:45.07, so I’m happy.”
Masland had a 20-minute lead on his closest competitors, 24-year-old Thomas Briggs of Mount Pleasant, S.C., and 32-year-old Daniel Williams of Baton Rouge, La. The two finished together at 3:06.22 and 3:06.32, respectively.
Last year’s female winner, 48-year-old Annette Bednosky of Jefferson, came in second this year in a time of 3:37.43, and third place went to Michelle McKenzie, 38, of Flowery Branch, Ga., in a time of 3:46.55.
Smylie, a teacher on a one-year cultural exchange program in Swansboro, said the race’s finish at MacRae Meadows in the midst of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games brought an incredible feeling.
Smylie said she had never attended a Highland Games before and will leave in just one week to return to Scotland.
“I heard the bagpipes and (saw) the kilts, and it was the most amazing experience of my life,” she said.
Race director Jim Deni said it wasn’t entirely surprising that the winners hailed from 3,700 miles apart, as the Grandfather Mountain Marathon has earned a reputation as one of the toughest marathons in the world.
“We generally have good representation from the western part of the state, but we’ve got people from 26 states here, so it’s well-known,” Deni said.
Overcast skies and a cool morning offered excellent conditions for the runners, who started at Appalachian State University’s Kidd Brewer Stadium, snaked along the Blue Ridge Parkway and back toward Linville to finish on the track at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.
Competitors from 17 to 75 tested their mettle on the course, and even the first finishers remarked on the course’s difficulty.
“It was hard because I’ve been living at sea level and running on flat,” Smylie said. “But it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.”
Masland benefitted from his knowledge of the course from past years.
“This race just chews you up,” he said. “You have to be really smart in the first 16 miles, and I learned that last year.”
Masland offered his advice for runners considering this particular marathon: “Be patient. Enjoy the climbs instead of attacking them, and no breaks on the downhills — let them do the work for you.
“And survive the last 10 miles.”
Complete results will be available at finishlinepros.com.
Fraser Wins, Sets New Record at Highland Games
After a neck-and-neck battle, defending champion Eric Frasure won the heavy athletics competition Saturday at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, setting a new Games record in the process.
Frasure, 30, of Denver, N.C., won four out of seven traditional Scottish athletic competitions to earn the title after a tight battle with friend and competitor Wes Kiser of Gibsonville.
It was the fifth event, the caber toss, that sealed the deal for Frasure.
In the caber toss, athletes must hold upright a telephone-pole-sized wooden pole and run forward, pitching it end-over-end so it lands in the 12:00 position as though on a clock.
In the first three tosses, Frasure and Kiser matched each other tit-for-tat, and the contest came down to a final tiebreaker toss. Frasure’s toss ended in the 12:15 position, edging out Kiser’s toss in the 12:30 position.
“I just try to turn my mind off and feed off the energy that the crowd provides,” Frasure said.
But it was the final event, the 56-pound weight throw for height, where Frasure made his ultimate statement. His toss of 17 feet, 10 inches barely edged over the bar, but it was good enough for a new Grandfather Mountain Highland Games event record. After four Red Bull energy drinks and a long day of competition in the hot sun, Frasure said he never expected to set the new record, but a supportive crowd helped provide motivation.
“It’s really hard to do anything without the crowd,” he said. “It makes everything hurt less.”
Frasure, who trains at CrossFit Allegiance in Denver, said he also incorporated Brazilian jiu-jitsu at BJJ Inc. into his regimen this year, which helped with his flexibility, grip strength and overall fitness.
For Frasure and Kiser, the competition began not in the infield at MacRae Meadows but in college, where they competed against each other in track and field, with Frasure at East Carolina University and Kiser at Appalachian State University. That was also the start of a lasting friendship between the two, who occasionally train together, gather for meals and share advice on everything from workouts to reading recommendations.
Kiser said he was ecstatic about his performance Saturday, especially as he prepares for his first appearance at the North American Scottish Athletics Championships at the end of July.
“I threw the best in every event that I’ve ever thrown at Grandfather,” Kiser said. “It was pretty much a head-to-head fight.”
He held no hard feelings after the daylong struggle with Frasure.
“It’s completely and utterly fun from beginning to end,” Kiser said. “That’s the whole reason I do it. I love throwing stuff, and I love the people that are here.”
Although the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games are just one of many competitions the professional athletes will face this year, several said the brotherhood among the athletes and the support of boisterous spectators made it among the best.
“It’s the most beautiful competition, the most beautiful venue,” Frasure said. “This is a very special place, and we’re honored to be here.”
SCOTTISH ATHLETIC EVENT RESULTS
56-Pound Weight Throw for Distance
1. Wes Kiser, Gibsonville, NC: 41′ 4″
2. Eric Frasure, Denver, NC: 41′ 0″
28-Pound Weight Throw for Distance
1. Wes Kiser, Gibsonville, NC: 82′ 3.5″
2. Eric Frasure, Denver, NC: 76′ 5.5″
Clachneart (16-Pound Stone Toss)
1. Eric Frasure, Denver, NC: 48′ 0.5″
2. Wes Kiser, Gibsonville, NC: 47′ 11.5″
22-Pound Hammer Throw
1. Eric Frasure, Denver, NC: 105′ 6″
2. Adam Sizemore, Parrottsville, TN: 95′ 3″
1. Eric Frasure, Denver, NC
2. Wes Kiser, Gibsonville, NC
Tossing of the Sheaf (Tossing a 20-pound sack of hay with a pitch fork for height)
1. Travis Gardner, Canton, NC: 34′
2. Eric Frasure, Denver, NC: 32′
56-Pound Weight Throw for Height
1. Eric Frasure, Denver, NC: 17′ 10″ (GMHG record)
2. Wes Kiser, Gibsonville, NC: 17′
Newcomers Named GMHG Track and Field Athletes of the Games
First-time competitors Jordan Lake and Amanda Gregory offered standout performances Saturday at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, earning the title of Track and Field Athletes of the Games.
Lake, 35, of Asheville, said he had not competed in sprinting events in more than 11 years before a friend talked him into attending the Highland Games this weekend. A previous collegiate track athlete for Grand Valley State University, he said it was a different experience to run on the loose sand track among bagpipers and kilts.
He turned in outstanding finishes in the men’s 100-yard dash (Masters), the 220-yard dash (Masters), the 440-yard dash (Masters) and the 220-yard dash.
“The shorter the event, the more fun I have,” said Lake, who associates with Clan Bruce. “It was a great chance to relive the glory days.”
It was also a weekend of firsts for Amanda Gregory, 20, of Wilmington, the female Track and Field Athlete of the Games. Gregory, a sprinter for High Point University, said she had yearned to compete in the Games for years, as her family has a second home in Boone, but couldn’t make the timing work until this year.
She shined in the competition, finishing first in the women’s 100-yard dash, 220-yard dash and long jump. She considered the 100-yard dash her best performance.
“I just felt fast today,” Gregory said. “I just like that quick race.”
Gregory said she enjoyed the entire atmosphere of the Highland Games and the chance to compete alongside her sister, who won the high jump event.
TRACK AND FIELD RESULTS
100 Yard Dash – Masters
1. Jordan Lake (Asheville, N.C.) – 00:11.34
2. Jamie Tyler (Knoxville, Tenn.) – 00:12.30
220 Yard Dash – Masters
1. Jordan Lake (Asheville, N.C.) – 00:25.00
2. Kendall Shirley (Rock Hill, S.C.) – 00:28.30
440 Yard Dash – Masters
1. Jordan Lake (Asheville, N.C.) – 00:55.00
2. Shawn Roberts (Boone, N.C.) – 1:12.00
100 Yard Dash – Men
1. CJ Wells (Unicoi, Tenn.) – 00:11.34
2. Ben Powell (Mill Spring, N.C.) – 00:11.75
220 Yard Dash – Men
1. Jordan Lake (Asheville, N.C.) – 00:25.00
2. Kendall Shirley (Rock Hill, S.C.) – 00:28.30
440 Yard Dash – Men
1. Aaron Hale (Raleigh, N.C.) – 1:05
2. Kendall Shirley (Rock Hill, S.C.) – 1:06
880 Yard Dash – Men
1. Aaron Hale (Raleigh, N.C.) – 2:29
2. Miles Housley (Warrenton, Va.) – 2:33
1 Mile – Men
1. James Zeutmeyer (Odessa, Fla.) – 4:52.92
2. Aaron Hale (Raleigh, N.C.) – 5:32
2 Mile – Men
1. James Zeutmeyer (Odessa, Fla.) – 11:52
2. Aaron Hale (Raleigh, N.C.) – 11:53
Triple Jump – Men
1. CJ Wells (Unicoi, Tenn.) – 36’ 9.5”
2. Thomas Randolph (Richmond, Va.) – 34’ 2.75”
Long Jump – Men
1. CJ Wells (Unicoi, Tenn.) – 17’ 1”
2. Tom Randolph (Richmond, Va.) – 16’ 0.5”
Pole Vault – Men
1. Hunter Hall (Williamsburg, Va.)
2. Hudson Hall (Portland, Texas)
100 Yard Dash – Women
1. Amanda Gregory (Wilmington, N.C.) – 00:11.86
2. Shannon Smith (Linville, N.C.) – 00:12.40
220 Yard Dash – Women
1. Amanda Gregory (Wilmington, N.C.) – 00:28.25
2. Shannon Smith (Linville, N.C.) – 00:29.30
440 Yard Dash – Women
1. Shannon Smith (Linville, N.C.) – 1:07.50
2. Loren Smith (Brevard, N.C.) – 1:17.00
880 Yard Dash – Women
1. Terrill MacGregor (Tampa, Fla.) – 2:47
2. Mary Chesnut Smith (Banner Elk, N.C.) – 3:06
1 Mile – Women
1. Abigal Motley (Virginia Beach, Va.) – 5:40
2. Mary Chesnut Smith (Banner Elk, N.C.) – 6:29
2 Mile – Women
1. Terrill MacGregor (Tampa, Fla.) – 13:37
2. Kaitlin Maison (Iron Station, N.C.) – 18:07
Triple Jump – Women
1. Shannon Smith (Linville, N.C.) – 29’ 6.5”
2. Natalie Jordan (Gastonia, N.C.) – 29’ 5.75”
Long Jump – Women
1. Amanda Gregory (Wilmington, N.C.) – 14’ 11”
2. Kate Gregory (Wilmington, N.C.) – 12’ 9”
High Jump – Women
1. Kate Gregory (Wilmington, N.C.) – 4’ 8”
2. Lauren Patterson (Seymour, Tenn.) – 4’ 6”
Pole Vault – Women
1. Bonnie Smith (Brevard, N.C.) – 8’ 6”